Posts Tagged 'Solomon'

Dealing With Authorities

barney300

King Solomon was trying to make sense of life by studying life itself. He recorded his observations to share them with his son. For at least part of his search, Solomon was away from the Lord. The conclusions he made during this period are a mixed; some times they are spot on, other times they are the cynical observations of an unhappy, dissatisfied man. Here are some of those conclusions about some very profound topics.

Conclusions about injustice, Ecclesiastes 3:16, 17; 4:1—6

Moreover, I notice that throughout the earth justice is giving way to crime, and even the police courts are corrupt. I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everything man does, both good and bad.” (Ecclesiastes 3:16, 17 TLB)

The idea of “justice” was a big deal in the Old Testament. Most of the times, “justice” was linked to God’s judgment, something that modern Christians don’t really grasp. Today, we speak of things undefinable like “social justice,” as opposed to the what the Bible spends a lot of time dealing with: “retributive justice.” This Biblical form of justice is at the root of the Jewish sacrificial system and ultimately finds fulfillment in the work of Christ on the Cross.

Solomon’s initial observation is that of a cynic. Of course, crime and corruption are not rampant everywhere, but those things certainly do exist in societies around the globe, including ours. The average person hears about political corruption or the ineffectiveness of our legal system and he complains about it,  sounding a lot like Solomon does in verse 16. The conclusion is not to be taken as another expression of fatalism; that’s not Solomon’s style. It is, rather, a statement of absolute fact. Nobody “gets away with it” forever. God sees everything a man does—the good and the bad. And God is able to discern whether what a man did in life was good or bad. We have a difficult time with discerning the motives of the heart, but God is expert at that!

There is a New Testament echo of what Solomon wrote here:

Yes, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12 TLB)

Ultimately, no matter how activist we may be; no matter how hard we may work to reform government, the problem of unjust rulers is solved by a just God. Ultimately, those who escape paying for their crime and corruption on earth, will stand before the great Judge of the Universe, and they will have to give account to Him for their conduct on earth.

Conclusions about the abuse of power, Ecclesiastes 4:1—3

Next I observed all the oppression and sadness throughout the earth—the tears of the oppressed, and no one helping them, while on the side of their oppressors were powerful allies. So I felt that the dead were better off than the living. And most fortunate of all are those who have never been born and have never seen all the evil and crime throughout the earth.

Solomon had just concluded that God would eventually redress the harm done by corrupt rulers, and that justice—God’s justice—would prevail. But knowing that Biblical truth in your head doesn’t always translate well to the emotions of your heart. Seeing the corruption and cronyism of American politics, for example, can lead you to a sense of hopelessness and a feeling that “we can’t do anything about it.” When you dwell on the negative for too long, you can get positively depressed! That led Solomon to a very cynical conclusion: it’s better not to bring a child into such a world.

This is not the thinking of a rational man; it’s the thinking of the emotional mood of the moment. It makes for a horrible philosophy of life. In fact, later on in this book, the author comes to the exact opposite conclusion!

There is hope only for the living. “It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion!” (Ecclesiastes 9:4 TLB)

In the following group of versions, we see another pessimistic conclusion reached by the cynical Solomon:

Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind. The fool won’t work and almost starves but feels that it is better to be lazy and barely get by, than to work hard, when in the long run it is all so futile. (Ecclesiastes 4:4—6 TLB)

What the Teacher has written here are barely half truths; anybody who truly believes these three verses needs to “pause and reflect!” There are, indeed, some who are greedy and full of envy who somehow achieve what appears to be success, but looking further, we see that most successful people are that way because, in the beginning, they wanted to feed their families or not be a burden on their families or society at large. These successful people simply reaped what they had sown; they worked hard and were rewarded accordingly.

So, to be envied because of one’s success is bad, but to strive to achieve that success in order to best your neighbor is worse. Yet, in the end, hard work and activity are necessary components of “the good life.”

Now, there is a bit of wisdom hidden in the cynicism. It’s wrong to seek success just to “keep up with the Jones’.” But it is also wrong to be lazy and to just not work. It’s foolish to think it’s better to “barely get by” than it is to work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

A different translation of verse 6 reveals what may be the missing balance; the Living Bible’s paraphrase may be a bit over the top.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. (KJV)

It’s wrong to build a fortune on a foundation of greed and avarice. It’s also wrong to be lazy. It’s good to both work and to take time to relax. Sometimes even the best believer may, in his sincere efforts to get ahead, get all caught up in the stress that comes with the wrong kind of ambition. When that happens, it’s best to find that place of quietness.

Conclusions about the king, Ecclesiastes 8:1—5; 11—13

The Bible has a lot to say about the believer’s relationship to and with authority, and most of it can be annoying. Over in the New Testament, we read things like this:

Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. (Romans 13:1 TLB)

The rest of Romans 13 goes downhill from there!

Pay your taxes too, for these same two reasons. For government workers need to be paid so that they can keep on doing God’s work, serving you. Pay everyone whatever he ought to have: pay your taxes and import duties gladly, obey those over you, and give honor and respect to all those to whom it is due. (Romans 13:6, 7 TLB)

As annoying as Paul’s advice to the Romans sounds, it should be noted that living in obedience to the governing authorities is generally God’s will for all believers. It should also be noted, though, that the overriding principles in obeying the governing authorities as far as Paul was concerned is this:

Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible. (Romans 12:17, 18 TLB)

Sometimes, in the case of moral or ethical issues, it may not be possible for a believer to obey a government edict.

Back in Ecclesiastes, we read this little “ode to wisdom”—

How wonderful to be wise, to understand things, to be able to analyze them and interpret them. Wisdom lights up a man’s face, softening its hardness. (Ecclesiastes 8:1 TLB)

This verse is important in light of what follows. Solomon’s advice to his son is the same as Paul’s advice to the Roman church, but the reasons are different.

Obey the king as you have vowed to do. Don’t always be trying to get out of doing your duty, even when it’s unpleasant. For the king punishes those who disobey. (Ecclesiastes 8:2, 3 TLB)

Solomon indicates that obedience to the king is part of your oath to the king—it’s part of your duty. Paul’s advice is slightly different; in Romans, the governing authorities are deserving of your obedience, not because of any oath you may have taken but simply by virtue of their position. In fact, Paul links obeying or respecting governing authorities to complying with God’s will!

Back to Solomon, here is the balance:

The king’s command is backed by great power, and no one can withstand it or question it. Those who obey him will not be punished. The wise man will find a time and a way to do what he says. (Ecclesiastes 8:4, 5 TLB)

In other words, it’s wise to obey the king because he or the state has the power to punish you if you don’t. But, a wise individual will find a way to obey the king. As one scholar noted:

In the face of of impossible circumstances or unbending authority, one does well to compromise when moral issues are not involved.

Conclusions about crime and punishment, Ecclesiastes 8:11—13

Because God does not punish sinners instantly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. But though a man sins a hundred times and still lives, I know very well that those who fear God will be better off…

Verse 11 is one of those verses that most of us think we made up out of our own experiences, yet here Solomon declares it to be a fact. It seems to a lot us that the wicked will never get their just deserts! It’s worse than that; because punishment seems not forthcoming, these same wicked sin even more, emboldened by the belief they’re never going to pay for their wrongdoing. However, in spite of the contradiction of appearances, Solomon knows the truth. And you should too! Nobody, but NOBODY, gets away with sin!

And yet, the wisest man who ever lived reached another cynical conclusion:

There is a strange thing happening here upon the earth: Providence seems to treat some good men as though they were wicked, and some wicked men as though they were good. This is all very vexing and troublesome! (Ecclesiastes 8:14 TLB)

Eventually, Solomon would snap back to his senses; he would figure things out from the correct perspective. Many years later, the prophet Malachi would have problems with his people, who had become disillusioned with the Lord because they had become cynical:

Listen; you have said, ‘It is foolish to worship God and obey him. What good does it do to obey his laws, and to sorrow and mourn for our sins? From now on, as far as we’re concerned, “Blessed are the arrogant.” For those who do evil shall prosper, and those who dare God to punish them shall get off scot-free.’ ” (Malachi 3:13, 14 TLB)

Most of us have probably said things like that, and we, of course, don’t really consider these words to be true. They’re “idle words,” and we assume God understands our frustration. He does understand our frustration, of course. But there is no such thing as an “idle word.” Reading on in Malachi, we understand that the Lord pays attention to our attitudes and our words:

Then those who feared and loved the Lord spoke often of him to each other. And he had a Book of Remembrance drawn up in which he recorded the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him. “They shall be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in that day when I make up my jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares an obedient and dutiful son. Then you will see the difference between God’s treatment of good men and bad, between those who serve him and those who don’t. (Malachi 3:16—18 TLB)

The wisest among us is the one who, though he may not understand all he sees or even experiences, trusts that the Lord has it all under control and that in the end, God’s Word and will shall prevail.

THE GREATEST FAILURE OF ALL

1 Kings 11

The account of King Solomon’s death as recorded by the Chronicler belies how sad a figure the wisest man who lived became later in life—

As for the other events of Solomon’s reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat? Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then he rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.

Thankfully we have the Historian’s account of King Solomon’s decline and death preserved for us in 1 Kings 11. Up to that chapter, we have a beautiful picture of how God blessed the son of David and fulfilled His promises to the King and the kingdom abundantly.

Solomon, the young man who started off so well asking only for wisdom and discernment in governing God’s people had been given divine wisdom, plus riches, power, and magnificence beyond anything his father, David, had ever dreamt of.

There is no getting around it; Solomon was blessed by God “over-the-top.” Yet, despite being the recipient of such blessings, Solomon, as foreseen by God, did exactly what he was forbidden to do. Deuteronomy 17:16—17,

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

No matter how much a person has been blessed by God, God’s Word must never be forgotten or forsaken. God had bestowed upon Solomon the abundance of what he asked for and what he hadn’t, but Solomon, enjoying the life God had given him, failed to uphold his part of deal:

It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:19—20)

You cannot ignore your obligation to God for long without impunity. Had Solomon done his part, he would not have been led astray by what God had given him, or anything else. Instead, Solomon did precisely that which the Law forbade his doing. He took it upon himself to multiply his riches and the number of his wives and his horses. God’s promise was kept; Solomon was rich and glorious beyond any king of his day, but eventually Solomon took control away from God and the means he used to enrich himself further revealed a heart far from God and led to the dismantling of the kingdom.

Solomon is the greatest failure of all time, and his experience reminds us of Luke 12:48,

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Here was a man with everything; opportunities unlimited! But he blew it. The tragedy of Solomon’s life was not a sudden catastrophe, but the very gradual decline of his complete devotion to God.

1. Why too many wives is a bad idea, verses 1—8

As was stated, Solomon’s practice of collecting many wives ran contrary to God’s policy for Israel’s king. Unfortunately, the influence of David, his father, was greater than that of the Word of God, for women were David’s undoing, as well. Like some men collect cars, so Solomon collected women; women from all cultures and nationalities. It was on account of his wives that Solomon, in his later years, came to condone that which he repudiated early in his life: false religions and idolatry. In fact, he not only condoned such things, he participated in them.

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. (verses 4, 5)

Incredible, is it not? How could such a “man of God” fall so far so quickly? Is it possible to get so used to God’s presence in your life and so accustomed to His blessings that you think you can get away with anything? Apparently Solomon thought so. Verse 6 says a lot:

So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

What is truly despicable about Solomon’s condition is that he was not following the Lord “completely.” The RSV says that Solomon’s heart was not “wholly true.” In other words, his heart was divided in its loyalty to his many wives and what they wanted and his God and what He wanted. If the story of Solomon proves anything, it is that one cannot serve God with a divided heart; the essence of Christianity is that it is an all-or-nothing proposition. To be loyal to anyone or anything apart from God is to be disobedient; there is no such thing as “partial obedience” or “part marks” in being disciples of Christ’s. It took a while, but it became apparent that God was not at all happy with Solomon.

2. God’s angry words to Solomon, verses 9—13

Verse 9 is a verse nobody wants in connection with themselves: The LORD became angry with Solomon. Just because Solomon continued to prosper and the kingdom was in very good shape, all was not well. God is holy and He makes no exceptions when it comes to sin and unrighteousness. Even the most highly favored and blessed individual is not exempt from facing God’s anger. What should be noted, though, is that even though God was terribly angry with Solomon and what he did, God’s anger and message of judgment was mixed mercy.

Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. (verses 11, 12)

Solomon could not escape God’s punishment; God’s judgment on the king for straying would become evident with the splitting up of the kingdom after his death. For now, though, Solomon would have to live the knowledge that most of what he had achieved during his lifetime would not endure. That was, perhaps, the greatest punishment for him. Solomon had, pretty much, over a span of four decades done nothing of enduring value.

3. Enemies as tools of judgment, verses 14—40

The incidents involving these foreign leaders, Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam (an Israelite), serve to show us that God began to stir up trouble for Solomon long before his death. All three men had been around for a while, but as Solomon’s reign drew to its inevitable conclusion, they all became more of a concern.

Hadad (verses 14—22) was a member of Edom’s royal family. He was the sole survivor of a terrible massacre when David’s army slaughtered some 18,000 Edomites for an unknown reason. Hadad was able to escape to Egypt, where he married into the Egyptian royal family.

Hadad harbored strong bitterness against Israel and in particular against the House of David, and for some time after David’s death, he pestered King Solomon; what was an irritation for so long became a troublesome threat during Solomon’s later years.

Rezon was also not a big fan of David’s. He eventually seized territory to the north where he, like Hadad to the south, caused endless trouble for Israel and Solomon. Also like Hadad, the older and weaker Solomon got, the more Rezon threatened the kingdom.

Hadad and Rezon, though not the promised punishment from God, He nevertheless  raised them up to serve as constant reminders that the king of Israel owed everything he inherited from his father and achieved during his reign to the mercy, the faithfulness, and the patience of God.

Would all this have happened had Solomon been faithful to God? These enemies of Israel had always been around and likely would have been trouble regardless of how faithful Solomon was. However, God is faithful. When we are faithful to Him, He helps us face trials with a strength that is supernatural. When we faithfully serve Him, He is able to make all kinds of grace abound to us.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The phrase “in all things at all times” is the key. God’s grace is not dependent on our circumstances, in fact, the bleaker our circumstances, the brighter God’s grace! There is no doubt had Solomon been faithful to the Lord; he could have easily handled these enemies. But when he disobeyed God, he walked out of the shadow of divine protection and opened himself to all kinds of evil and wickedness he never experienced before.

What’s worse, Solomon’s folly sealed the fate of his kingdom, as well. It would never again reach the glorious heights it reached just a few scant years before.

And what of Solomon? He ruled for 40 years, and died on the throne. Assuming he was no more than 20 when he came to the throne, Solomon did not live a long life. Whether Solomon actually returned with his whole heart to the Lord is widely discussed by scholars; Scriptures are more or less silent on that. If Solomon is The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, as most conservative scholars believe, then it seems as though he did come back to the Lord—

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the [duty] of every human being. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14)


(c)  2010 WitzEnd

THE QUEEN WHO CAME FOR A VISIT

1 Kings 10:1—13

The story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Israel is important on many different levels.  The last sentences of the previous chapter explain how it all came about:

King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his servants—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s servants. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.  (1 Kings 9:26—28)

News travels quickly in any age.  They may not have had the Internet, satellite radio and TV in Solomon’s day, but they did have word-of-mouth and the fame of Solomon’s great wealth spread far and wide and it attracted the attention of this particular queen.

It is almost certain that the elements of this story—a foreign dignitary or leader comes to visit Solomon—were repeated again and again during Solomon’s reign.  Many, many people came to Jerusalem, curious about this man and his famed wisdom and wealth.  In fact, a great many legends have grown around Solomon’s wealth to the point where fables like “King Solomon’s Mines” have been more or less accepted as fact.  History has never known a ruler like Solomon; he had no equal and never will have an equal among men.  The wisdom of Solomon was, in reality, the wisdom of God, which is perfect in every way.  No wonder this king was so famous and what is so interesting is that this fame, an apparent byproduct of his wisdom, was yet another promise from God—

I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.  (1 Kings 3:12)

On another level, however, this story reminds us that One greater than Solomon will come and reign, also from Jerusalem and His influence will not be dissimilar to that of Solomon—

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.  (Isaiah 60:1—3)

This passage, of course, refers to the reign of Jesus Christ during the Millennium, the character of which is foreshadowed in the story before us.

1.  Who is this Queen of Sheba?

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.  (verse 1)

Sheba doesn’t exist any longer, but scholars suggest Sheba was located in southwest Arabia, present day Yemen.  The Queen of Sheba was no slouch, though she did not have the divine wisdom of Solomon.  Under her rule, Sheba had become a trading giant of her day.  Securely located in the famous Fertile Crescent, it had a strong agrarian economy resulting from an intricate and extensive irrigation system throughout the kingdom.  Sheba had become known for its trade in perfumes, incense, gold and other very precious gems.

Often overlooked by secular historians is the fact that it wasn’t just wealth and wisdom Solomon was famous for.  His incredible fame was associated with “his relationship with the Lord.” This suggests that Solomon was an effective witness for the Lord among the heathen nations around him.  He didn’t just trade with them.  He didn’t just have political relationships with them.  The king shared his faith with them, and the Queen of Sheba made the journey specifically to find out about this faith, by asking Solomon “hard questions.”

King Solomon, then, was the perfect Jew and sets an example for modern Christians to follow.  The entire nation of Israel was to be a witness for Jehovah.  Christ gave us His “great commission” to “go into all the world,” sharing our faith with the lost.  The nations around Israel knew of Solomon’s relationship with Jehovah, and clearly the people of the kingdom at this time rose to the King’s example, and their faith was seen by others.  The question becomes obvious:  do your neighbors know about your faith?  Do your co-workers know about your faith?  In how you live your life; in how you speak and the places you go, is your faith obvious to those around you?

Jesus Himself mentions the Queen of Sheba as a warning and example to those who hear the Word of the Lord yet do nothing with it—

The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.  (Matthew 12:42)

What were these “hard questions” she had for Solomon?  The Hebrew is usually translated as “riddles.”  We should not assume she was toying with him or trying to trick him.  These “riddles” were “enigmatic sayings or questions that cloaked a deeper philosophical, practical, or theological truth” (Patterson).  From this passage, we can see that this woman was genuinely seeking more knowledge of God from Solomon.

Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.  (verse 2)

The phrase “all that she had on her mind” may also be translated “all that she had in her heart.”  The Queen of Sheba took Solomon’s faith seriously.  She did not come all this way to make fun of it.  She was an honest seeker.

2.  Solomon’s response

Verse 3 is telling—

Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.

She was not asking for political advice.  She was asking the King about his faith, and “nothing was too hard for him to explain to her.” Can you say the same?  Are you able to explain your faith and beliefs to somebody who comes to you?  It’s easy to use the excuse that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.  However, you have something that he never had:  the Holy Spirit.

Before we claim our faith is too hard to understand or explain to others, consider—

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  (John 16:13)

The underlying principle of this verse is sound and life-changing.  No believer needs a theology degree to share his faith with others.  Nothing about God or His Word is too hard for you to understand if you tap into the divine wisdom inside of you.  God will honor your study of His Word by bringing back what you read and studied and even revealing to you what it means.  We ought never to disappoint an honest inquirer with the response, “I don’t know.”  We owe the sinner something; we owe them a reason for why we believe.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  (1 Peter 3:15)

Not only was Solomon able to “give the reason for the hope” he had, he was not ashamed to worship Jehovah in front of her—

When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.  (verses 4, 5)

She not only witnessed the blessings of God upon Solomon, she witnessed the exercise of his faith; he took her into the Temple.  The last phrase of verse 5 literally means, “there was no more spirit in her.”  This is a Hebraism indicating “great emotion.”  The phrase is seen elsewhere in the Old Testament always in connection with the glory of God.  She was literally overcome with the glory of God revealed in Solomon’s life.  It was not just the blessings of God that impressed her; it was his open, bold faith.  He was not ashamed; his faith was not a private matter.

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.  But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.  (verses 6, 7)

The Queen thought the rumors about Solomon had been exaggerated; no man could have achieved as much or be as great as Solomon was.  However, she found they were all true.

3.  The Queen’s response

Verse 8 indicates how greatly impressed she was with Solomon, the man—

How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!

She had seen and heard Solomon’s testimony, now we get to read her testimony.  The word “happy” also means “blessed.”  The Queen recognized what some in the King’s court may have taken for granted:  God had blessed Solomon with incredible wealth and wisdom, and those associated with him were the beneficiaries of the abundance or overflow of that blessing.

A good and wise king or leader is always a blessing to all his people, and the fact that God chose Solomon as king was an indication of His great love and favor for all Israel.

The Queen was so impressed, we read this—

Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”  (verse 9)

Solomon’s wisdom and grandeur combined with his very public faith in Jehovah were a striking testimony to God, and all this caused a heathen Queen to give praise or recognition to Jehovah.  She could not deny the reality of Jehovah or the special relationship Jehovah had with both Solomon and the people of Israel.

This is truly amazing, and her testimony in verse 9 and her subsequent gifts to the King have led some scholars to conclude that she became a believer that day; that verse 9 is really her confession of faith.  This may very well be, however, the point of the story is the power of Solomon’s testimony, for it led to hers.

In keeping with court courtesy, the Queen came to visit bearing precious gifts—

And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. (verse 10)

None of that was unusual.  However, not to be outdone, we read this—

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.  (verse 13)

Remember, Sheba was known as a nation of shrewd traders.  Solomon gave the Queen “all she asked for.”  What does this mean?  In all probability she gave Solomon certain goods and she (and her people) expected something from him in return.  This was a common trading practice.  In addition to giving her the prescribed items, he blessed her out of the abundance of his blessing.  He demonstrated the generosity that ought characterize all of God’s people.

God’s people should never be stingy; not with their finances or their joy, or their wisdom or with any good thing God has given them.

This story of this Queen’s visit to Israel is just one example of the multitudes who came to know the God of Israel during Solomon’s tenure as King.  We can never understate the importance of a good reputation and a good testimony in building the Kingdom of God.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

SOLOMON’S QUEST FOR WISDOM

Solomon's Choice

1 Kings 2

At the end of chapter 2, we are told this:

The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon’s hands.  (1 Kings 2:46)

How did this happen?  Though the kingdom was passed on to Solomon from his father, David, it was a series of wise decisions that led to decisive actions against troublesome individuals that demonstrated to every citizen of Israel and to the leaders of surrounding nations that there was a new king in Israel and he was not to be trifled with.

Yes Solomon was wise, but at the same time he did on numerous occasions overstep the limits of the king of Israel’s legitimate position.  He allied himself with the Gentiles and married Pharaoh’s daughter.

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem.  (verse 1)

1.  A glimpse of the king’s downfall, verses 2, 3

Solomon’s marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter sealed a political alliance between Egypt and Israel.  Treaties between nations were customarily sealed like this, but this treaty was apparently in Egypt’s favor, since Israel was the stronger of the two nations.  Egypt was clearly in decline by Solomon’s time.

It should be noted that this particular marriage was not against the Mosaic Law; only marriages with Canaanite women were forbidden.  This kind of marriage was permitted only if she renounced her gods and confessed faith in Israel’s God.

Solomon followed the letter of the religious Law, but this marriage was most likely a bad idea; it was the beginning of a pattern of behavior that would lead to his spiritual downfall.   Solomon was raised by women in the women’s court.  Women were the only thing Solomon really understood, so it is reasonable to conclude that his many marriages and relationships with women were the result of his upbringing.  The king was not worldly wise and was not acquainted with the world like his father David was.   Solomon had one thing is his favor, however, though he did not have the spiritual depth his father had, he did recognize that shortcoming.

His many marriages to foreign women were not the only issues that led to Solomon’s undoing.

The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD.  Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.  (verses 3, 4)

The word “however” tells us that though conditions in Israel at the time were generally very good, there was an ongoing problem that needed to be taken care of, namely, the awful practice of sacrificing at what became known as the “high places.”

These high places were open-air places of worship located on hills or elevated places throughout Israel.  These places were a constant sore point for Israel which the prophets of Jehovah continually condemned.  Why the big deal about these high places?   Scholars tell of two reasons why the Lord hated the high places.  First, the people were intended to worship at the sanctuary.  The high places made their religion far too convenient.  Upon entering the Promised Land, the people were to build a central sanctuary where true worship could take place.  Getting to that central location to worship was part of the Law of Moses.  Second, worship at the high places was originally part of the Canaanite religion.  The high places existed in the land long before Israel came and took possession of it and they were strictly forbidden to use pagan places of worship (Deuteronomy 12).  Unfortunately, syncretism was all too common and posed a genuine threat to Judaism.  The worship of Jehovah should never have been allowed to mix with pagan worship; it was the purpose of God to keep a great distance between His worship and the worship of false gods.

How many high places were there?  We don’t know for sure, but we do know that Samuel had a high place at Ramah (1 Samuel 7, 9) and Solomon had a great high place at Gibeon.   God in His grace had allowed the use of high places as long as the worshiper’s heart was right and his motives pure.  Clearly this was the case with both Samuel and Solomon—both worshiped at their respective high places in loyalty and obedience.   The mentioning of the unbuilt Temple is meant to suggest that as soon as it was built, worship at the high places was to end.

2.  Revelation at Gibeon, verses 4—9

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”  (verse 9)

According to a parallel account in 2 Chronicles 1:2—3, the whole leadership of Israel went with Solomon to Gibeon to bring one great offering to God; one thousand burnt offerings were carried to the place of worship.  The purpose of this gathering was to offer thanksgiving to God for establishing Solomon as king and to seek God’s blessing on his tenure.  It was here that the Lord appeared to the king in a dream.

It should be pointed out that today God does not speak to anybody in a dream.  God speaks to His people in His Word today.  It is true that Joel wrote this of the time in which we live:

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  (Joel 2:28)

This is not referring to what happened to Solomon.  Solomon did not have the completed Word of God, His revelation to His people.  Hebrews 1:2 is an important verse to remember whenever anybody claims to have had some sort of revelation from God apart from the Bible:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  (Hebrews 1:1, 2)

God’s appearance to Solomon was certainly an auspicious way to begin his kingship; not only that, it indicated that God was pleased with the sacrifice, location notwithstanding.  God had been blessed by Solomon’s offering, and now He desired to bless Solomon.  Apparently nothing was off limits in terms of what Solomon could ask for.  This seems astounding to us, yet we have exactly the same opportunity:

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  (John 14:14)

The king responded to the Lord’s gracious offer in humility and continued thanksgiving, asking only for wisdom.  The phrase “little child” is just a figure of speech indicating that indeed Solomon was young, but also inexperienced.  This young king was facing responsibilities never faced by any world leader.  Israel was a chosen nation.  David had built it to the zenith of its political and military power.  It was a privilege for Solomon to be made king, but the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility.  He was charged with continuing what David had started.  That would be no small feat!  And he would wisdom and discernment way beyond his years.  Fortunately he realized his need, and of all things Solomon could have asked for, those were the things he wanted.

Notice, though, Solomon was specific in his request.  It was not speculative wisdom he needed or wanted; it was an understanding and discerning heart so that he may be able to govern Israel justly.  Though he did not know it, Solomon was aspiring to the kind of ruler Christ will ultimately be, as described in Isaiah 11:2—5.  Nothing could have pleased the Lord more than this!  Solomon, seeing the needs of his people and realizing the qualities necessary to meet them is a type of the Messiah, the final Son of David.

3.  A happy God, verses 10—15

As we read God’s response to Solomon’s request for wisdom, we can’t help but be reminded of Matthew 6:33—

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Solomon had discovered what countless others have discovered since his time.  That is, God not only answered his prayer, but graciously added to it.  The young king side stepped what most others would have asked for:  prosperity, long life, happiness, and so on.  God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for and more; all that he did not ask for was also given him.   Solomon’s wisdom not only enabled him to rule Israel well but also caused him to known around the known world as being the wisest man who ever lived.

What a lesson on praying the kind of prayer that pleases God.  Perhaps the reason why some of our prayers go unanswered is because we are asking God for the wrong things.  We Christians have the privilege of having each and every prayer we pray answered because we have what Solomon never had:  the living Word of God to guide us in our prayers and the ever present Holy Spirit who is able to not only inspire us to pray according to God’s will but also to pray through us.

4.  A practical test, verses 16—28

It wasn’t long before Solomon’s newly acquired wisdom and discernment was put to the test in a heart-wrenching way.  Surely there were many such incidents in the king’s life, but this one is given to how in practical situations as well as in matters of the State, Solomon acted wisely and how as a result his reputation as a wise ruler grew.

Here was a case where there were no eye witnesses; it was one woman’s word against the others.  Solomon demonstrated an almost superhuman insight into human nature, and once again showed how much he understood women.

But this situation also demonstrated the kind of justice so needed for God’s people.  This is the kind of justice God demanded from His people and the kind of justice championed by the prophets.  Sadly it was also the kind of justice decried by most of the prophets during the long and checkered history of Israel and Judah.

Solomon’s verdict and the way he reached it spread throughout the kingdom and became common knowledge among all the people.  The king was held in awe; here was clear evidence that God’s man was on the throne of Israel!

Conclusion

Solomon loved God.  Of this there can be no doubt.  It was given him to accomplish all for the glory of God.  Solomon walked according to the admonitions of his father, David.  However, Solomon, for all he had going for him, approached God without rising above the level of his people.   The high places remained in place long after Solomon’s death.  He never rid Israel of these blights.  Very often, the luster of great blessing hides that which God disapproves of but that which ultimately proves disastrous.   Many of us enjoy the blessings of God alongside the sin in our lives.  God’s blessings in no way suggest He approves of our continuing in sin.  The high places and foreign gods which Solomon tolerated led to his downfall and the splitting up of the kingdom.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

We learn that most valuable of life lessons:  it doesn’t matter how we start the race, but rather how we finish it.


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